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Chinese artist's work: Floor carpeted with 100 mln porcelain sunflower seeds

10-12-2010 10:27 BJT

A vast floor within the Tate Modern has been carpeted with more than 100million 'sunflower seeds' - the latest commission in the annual Unilever Series.

Visitors will be able to walk on and touch the seeds - the brainchild of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei - which are in fact made of porcelain.

Symbolic: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei with his work Sunflower Seeds - a reference to his
country's Cultural Revolution, when propaganda images showed Chairman Mao as the sun
and the mass of people as sunflowers turning towards him

Each imitation seed husk was individually handcrafted by skilled artisansd now covers 1,000 square metres of the London gallery's Turbine Hall

The ceramic seeds were moulded, fired at soaring temperatures, hand-painted and then fired again over the course of two years.

Sunflower seeds are a popular Chinese street snack but also hold another meaning for the artist, a political dissident in China.

During the Cultural Revolution, propaganda images showed Chairman Mao as the sun and the mass of people as sunflowers turning towards him.

The Unilever Series was launched in 2000 and has included Doris Salcedo's split of the floor of Tate Modern, Carsten Holler's spiralling slides and Olafur Eliasson's popular Weather Project.

Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make his installation, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports.

The project is designed to make visitors explore the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and consider the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today, say curators of the exhibition.

Ai Weiwei is one of China’s leading conceptual artists and an outspoken cultural and social commentator.

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